How media and social network coverage of CSOs in Russia has changed in 2022

How media and social network coverage of CSOs has changed in 2022


On 27 October, the results of a new study were presented at the Media/NGO-Profi conference on social journalism. The study is called “Media and social network coverage of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Russia: the third wave.”

The research was discussed at the conference, and the Agency for Social Information (ASI) has picked out the most interesting parts of the paper. You can read about the research report in this presentation.

Regional emphasis

In 2022, only a third of communications about the CSO sector  were published in the national media. That figure is falling slightly every year: in 2020 it was 32% while in 2021, it was 26%.

19% of published material on CSOs is about the special military operation

Online media and news agencies are still the main news providers – they are in fact the source of 89% of published material about CSO activities. The sector is least referenced on the radio and in the papers – 0.2% and 0.1% respectively.

Regional interest in CSOs is on the up. 59% of stories about CSOs were published on city, district or regional portals.

The main information sources on the third sector were the agencies TASS and RIA Novosti – the same as in 2021. ASI was in third place that year, but slipped to fourth in 2022, when Tsargrad took bronze.

“Sources like the TV channel Tsargrad, the news agency Krasnaya Zvezda and have come through as the top media outlets following active coverage of the humanitarian aid to the Donbas region,” said the authors of the research.


Areas with the highest media activity were the Moscow region (5% of publications), the Nizhny Novgorod region (4%) and Saint Petersburg (3%). Interest levels have stayed consistent throughout the three years that monitoring has been in place. The regional republic of Adygea was in last place at 0.03%.

Foreign agents are centre of attention

In 2022, 8 out of 10 significant events in the not-for-profit sector that the media  reported on were  about the law on foreign agents and examples of its application in real life. In 2021, there were only four stories about it in the top media outlets.

That said, the number of stories about foreign agents is not that high within the overall flow of information: only about 3%. The authors of the report said the topic had a particularly high propensity to be noticed by audiences.

11% of stories about CSOs had a positive tone in 2022

Most stories (around 89% compared to 79% a year earlier) described CSO events: online events, concerts, flash mobs and rallies. Only 3% of reports were about third-sector scandals and 2% looked at the results of CSO work.

“The trend towards a ‘governmentalisation’ of media references to the civil society sector continued in 2022. CSOs are often presented not as subjects in themselves, but rather the object of active government regulation,” the research noted.

The CSOs most frequently mentioned in the media in 2022 were bodies that the government had created: the Presidential Grants Fund, and Russia – country of opportunities (an autonomous civil society organisation). Organisations that were mentioned equally frequently included the International Committee of the Red Cross, Greenpeace, the charitable fund “Give life” and others.

66% of stories were about the local work of CSOs – in a city or town – while an additional 24% focused on their national work across Russia or their international work.

The work of the third sector is consistently presented as playing a part in tackling the country’s challenges that the government has highlighted as being current. The emphasis is shifting from presenting CSO activities as grassroots  (citizen-led) initiatives to tracking the government’s target of supporting low-income households,” the research authors added.


The main social network where material about CSO work is posted continues to be VKontakte: in 2022, the site published 418,000 posts about CSOs. The second most popular social media provider is Odnoklassniki (127,000 posts) with Telegram (84,000) in third place.

Women are writing 66% of social media posts about CSO work

In 2021, Facebook was in second place (it belongs to Meta, which was designated as extremist and prohibited in Russia). But because Facebook is being blocked, the number of posts there fell from 65,000 to 43,000. Facebook is now in fourth place.

Authors and interest groups from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Perm are the most active.


“Most of the stories are designed to highlight CSO activities and government support to the third sector following the start of the special military operation and the decline in international payment revenues,” the study notes.

Most posts on social networking sites in 2022 were about CSOs’ core work (230,000 posts), government support for the third sector (156,000 posts) and CSO events (79,000 posts). The most popular authors who have written about CSO work include Olga Buzova, Ivan Alekseev (Noize MC) and Ramzan Kadyrov.

Olga Buzova has been very involved in fund-raising issues. The well-known brand Chanel made the controversial decision to refuse to sell their goods to Russian customers. As a result, the singer has called on people to sell their branded handbags and donate the proceeds to the foundation Old Age is Happiness.

“From 1 March to 30 June 2022, there were a total of 722,400 references to the civil society sector from 302,500 authors. The top three most frequently mentioned organisations were the Konstantin Khabensky Charitable Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House Foundation, and the Gift of Life Foundation for Children,” said the research authors.

The ZIRCON Research Group ran the study Media and social network coverage of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Russia: the third wave. It was commissioned by the Agency for Social Information (ASI) from 1 March to 30 June 2022. The research is part of the NPO-Profi project (supported by the Vladimir Potanin Charitable Foundation).




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